Before a man in a bloody Halloween mask walked up to the register, it was a bingo night like any other.
Jim Wycoff was the caller that evening. "It was a pretty routine night," he said. "Everybody gets their cards, and then we go through game after game. We had just identified a winner."
Josie Andrews had just finished working the bingo hall’s concession stand, where she sells pretzels and nachos to customers. She was standing near the register, shuffling through the sheets for the next game, when a man walked in. Andrews said that he was wearing a mask that was made to look like it was bloody.
“The way he was walking towards me I didn’t see any harm, like a gun or a knife,” she said. “The way he was looking at me I thought it was a prank. Next thing I knew he took the money and ran.”
The thief had reached into the bingo hall’s cash drawer and grabbed a fistful of bills. Most people in the hall didn’t see the crime happen, but they definitely heard it.
Julie Springer was sitting at one of the tables closest to the door, playing a few games. "All I heard was a guy yelling ‘Hey!’ with great force," she said. "Next thing I know, somebody went out and several more people went trailing out after him."
"I was afraid; I was scared," she said.
Wycoff ran after the thief with at least three other men. "I see him going down the street towards the college, and so I’m running after him," he said. "And he’s younger and faster than I [am]. All I saw was his form running down the street; in the dark, in the shadows."
He said that the man in the mask gave him the slip when he sprinted past the KuC campus. The Bethel Police Department was called, and officers spent some time last night reviewing the bingo hall’s security footage. As of this broadcast, they don’t have a suspect in custody.
This wasn’t a small-time robbery. According to Wycoff, the thief managed to grab several neatly bundled stacks of bills from the bingo hall’s cash drawer, a total of almost $3,000. Tuesday is the Lions Club’s bingo night, and the proceeds from the night’s games would have gone to them.
"They run the Winter House," said Wycoff. "One of their major funding efforts is to keep that going. It’s pretty sad when they [thieves] attack a charitable organization like that."
The cash drawer was open, and there wasn’t any kind of barrier that would prevent somebody from reaching in and taking something. Wycoff said that before this happened, the bingo hall didn’t think that it needed any extra security.
"This is the first time this has happened in the 20 years I've been doing this," he said. He added that the hall’s managers have already discussed adding additional security measures. "We need to make it a lot harder to do in the future, because if they’ve done this once, they’ll probably do it again."
Bethel Chief of Police Burke Waldron says that the Police Department’s investigation is ongoing. "We have some information that we need to follow up on,” he said.
KYUK's reporting on the theft is ongoing.